Varsity Notes: High-profile programs could face changes in class

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Every two years, the PIAA realigns classifications based on school enrollments of boys and girls. The PIAA won't release classification cutoffs until December, but schools had to submit enrollment numbers to the PIAA last week. Schools must use enrollments for boys and girls currently in grades 9-11.

If the current classification cutoffs for PIAA schools are a barometer, then Gateway most likely would be in Class AAA next year for football.

Gateway reported to the PIAA last week that it has 470 boys in grades 9-11. The current range for Class AAA schools is from 299 to 505 boys. For the current two-year cycle, Gateway was the fourth-smallest WPIAL Class AAAA school with 527 boys.

"I think a lot of schools around here have had declining enrollments," Gateway athletic director Randy Rovesti said. "We've been one of the smaller [AAAA] schools the last number of years."

Schools can play "up" in classification if they choose. For example, Jeannette's school board voted Monday night for the team to play Class AA football, even though the school's enrollment would place it in Class A and even though football coach Roy Hall asked the board to let the Jayhawks play Class A.

Schools must notify the PIAA by early December if they choose to play "up" in classification.

"We'll see what happens [with the new PIAA classification cutoffs]," Rovesti said. "We know we always have the option to play up, but we really haven't discussed yet what we would do if were in [AAA]."

How it works

The PIAA decides classification cutoffs on an enrollment percentage, based on the number of schools in the state. For example, in football there are four classes. So, the PIAA takes the number of schools playing football and puts the top 25 percent (based on enrollment) in Class AAAA. The next 25 percent are AAA, the next 25 percent AA and the lowest 25 percent A.

More changes in class

When the new PIAA enrollment cutoffs come out in December, there will undoubtedly be more notable changes that could come about:

* Based solely on figures used for current classification cutoffs, New Castle would move back down to Class AAA in boys basketball after two seasons in AAAA. The school turned in an enrollment of 377 boys to the PIAA. Currently, schools with 431 boys or more are in Class AAAA. In the current classification two-year cycle, New Castle had 454 boys, so the school's male enrollment dropped by 77. New Castle won the WPIAL Class AAAA title last season and the AAA championship in 2012.

* Hampton has 409 boys, which probably puts the Talbots back in Class AAA basketball after two seasons at Class AAAA. Hampton lost to New Castle in the 2013 AAAA championship game and the 2012 AAA title game.

* South Fayette is on the bubble of having to move up to Class AAA for football. It all depends on the new classification cutoffs. South Fayette reported 293 boys to the PIAA. Currently, schools with 299 to 505 boys play AAA football.

"We're a growing district and, if we don't move up next year, I think we will definitely move up for the next cycle [which begins in 2016]," South Fayette athletic director Joe Farkas said.

* Blackhawk officials thought the Cougars might move down to Class AA football next season, but that seems unlikely. The school reported 319 boys to the PIAA. Currently, schools with 186 to 298 boys are Class AA.

* Chartiers Valley is on the bubble of whether it will move from Class AAA to AAAA in basketball. The school reported 439 boys. In the current cutoffs, schools with 244-430 boys are AAA.

Lincoln Park addition

Lincoln Park, a charter school in Midland, has developed one of the top boys basketball programs in WPIAL Class A. It is likely the school might start a girls basketball program next school year.

The Lincoln Park school board must still approve the addition of girls basketball in the next few months, but it is a strong possibility.

Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski said the school has about 120 boys, but more than 300 girls.

"We have about three times more girls than boys, so, with the [Title IX] and other regulations, the opportunities have to be there for girls, too," Bariski said. "We thought: What would get a number of girls playing and wouldn't cost a whole lot of money? We decided basketball is what we might want to do."

Lincoln Park currently has only golf and basketball for boys and golf and volleyball for girls

If Lincoln Park adds girls basketball, don't be surprised if the team's coach is Bill Minear, who resigned in the spring as Sto-Rox's boys coach. He won WPIAL titles and a PIAA title at Sto-Rox. Minear lives in North Allegheny's district, but has a son who is a senior at Lincoln Park and also two daughters who are freshmen at Lincoln Park. He is reportedly interested in coaching if Lincoln Park adds girls basketball.

Father vs. son

Sam Albert will participate in senior night festivities before Knoch's home game tonight. Albert's son, Adam, is a senior receiver-defensive back for Knoch.

After the pregame activities, Sam Albert will walk to the opposing team's sideline and try to beat his son's team.

Sam Albert is the coach of the Highlands Rams, who play Knoch in their final regular-season game. A year ago, Adam Albert scored a touchdown against his father's team as Knoch defeated Highlands, 41-7.

"I wouldn't say this game is hard, but it's just weird," Sam Albert said. "Not only my son, but all these Knoch kids have practically grown up in my basement with sleepovers.

"My son is great about it, though. He doesn't talk to me this week about the game. But, of course, I'll draw up plays, lay them on the floor outside his bedroom. I'll just say, 'What, did I drop that?' He'll just say, 'Dad, please.' So we have fun with it."

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